Pearls for the Girls: Words of Wisdom for your #SCHOOLGIRLHUSTLE

 

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BY KIARA

Let’s face it. Life ain’t always easy when you’re in a constant balancing act — balancing school, work, a social life, planning for your future, taking care of your family, keeping your finances afloat, maintaining your relationships and more. All these things bring challenges, especially while on your #SCHOOLGIRLHUSTLE. Struggle, hard times, low points and times of doubt are all part of the journey. 

You’re about to hear from 8 women who are movers and shakers, doers and go-getters, hustlers and game changers with one thing in common: they’ve all tackled their challenges head on. Now, they’re offering you their pearls of wisdom — advice for the toughest days of your #SCHOOLGIRLHUSTLE.



racheida

Racheida Lewis, M.E | Ph.D Student at Virginia Tech | BS in Electrical Engineering (VCU ’13); M.E. in Electrical Engineering (UVA ’15)

“The most meaningful advice I can give to a young woman in engineering (especially first generation) is that just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible. I started out as 1 of 4 black people in my major and 1 of 4 girls. I come from a poor background with no exposure to engineering prior to attending college. Like me, I’m sure that there will be times when you feel like giving up. There will be times when you feel like “this isn’t for me” because you may be behind your peers. There may be times when you’re intimidated by the fact that you’re 1 of few, or the only one like you in your classes. You may feel like a different major is a better fit. And it’s ok to experience those feelings. You’re not a quitter for feeling like a failure sometimes. It’s how you get up and take your next steps that count. Make friends within your major and outside your major (because you need a sane place to escape to). GO TO OFFICE HOURS and DEMAND the assistance you seek. Some professors may be jerks and it’s unfortunate, but at the end of the day they are just as much responsible for your learning as you are – don’t give into the negativity of “this isn’t high school anymore”. Find something that brings you joy – an organization, a hobby, volunteering, etc. Lastly, find support that keeps you grounded – this can be your family, friends, church, the place and people you can feel most vulnerable with without feeling the pressure of judgment. College is difficult and being in a technical field doesn’t make it any easier – but there are strength in numbers and there are so many who have come before you that are rooting for your success. If you decided that this isn’t for you because you’ve found passions elsewhere then that’s perfectly acceptable – but whatever degree you decided to pursue, you make sure that by any means necessary you don’t leave that university without it!”


caitlin

Caitlin Eberhardt | Graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law | Law Clerk at the Supreme Court of Hawaii

“One proverb that I hold close to my heart is, “Be not afraid of going slowly. Be afraid of standing still.” Following that thought, my advice to women struggling in school is not to measure your progress against that of your peers. Everyone starts at a different level and learns in different ways. As long as you are better than you were yesterday, that is success.”


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Mariah Williams | Virginia Commonwealth University Graduate Student | Founder, Black Girls Meet Up

“I remember being in middle school and listening to some girls say, ‘I don’t get along with females’ or ‘girls can’t be trusted so I don’t hang out with them.’ I never understood that because so many of my great friends were other girls and I loved being around them, especially because I learned so much from them. My advice for girls in schools would be to surround yourself with girls and people in general who uplift you. In the age of social media, it is so easy to be distracted from your purpose or to allow things like Facebook and Instagram to affect your friendships negatively. Don’t let it. There is so much you can learn from the women around you! Don’t see other women as a threat. Empower each other. Encourage each other, especially in the classroom.”


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Christine Marie Quilpa | School Counselor at Augusta County Schools | UVA Graduate (2012, B.A. Sociology with Asian Pacific American Studies minor; 2016, M.Ed Counselor Education)

“Some circumstances and some people, including yourself, will try to put you down, but don’t let your spirit to be crushed. You were born to be great, and in order to find your greatness, you will learn a lot of lessons and experience a lot of experiences along the way. There will be many times when you will feel disappointed, sad, angry, hurt, and other emotions, but instead of letting these challenges set you back, be open to them. Use your emotions and experiences to become a bolder, braver, better you. And if you ever feel uncertain about where your passions and purpose may be, think of a problem that has made you upset – and let yourself be the solution to it.”


“The best advice I could give would be don’t forget to live while you complete your

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Ashley Bond | Teacher | Graduate of University of Richmond

education.  One of my biggest struggles in school was that between not
having the academic skills I needed to do my work quickly, and having to work on the side to pay expenses, it took up nearly all of my time.  I would put in 18 hour days between school and work, and spent little time doing things that I wanted to do.  After
a while, I became very burned out, depressed, and bitter with my situation.  I was angry at the whole world for making my life so hard when it was really me who wouldn’t allow myself to take a break.  I moved from Utah to Virginia to go to school largely because
I had always wanted to see Virginia and the East Coast in general.  I didn’t take nearly enough time to go see the sights and experience the culture.  Looking back, I wish I would have spent less time on studies, let my grades fall a little bit (Getting C’s and D’s isn’t the worst thing in the world.  You will still graduate and end up in the same place; I promise.), and taken the time to enjoy myself.  School would have been so much more meaningful if I had,  and I may have avoided some of the terrible choices
I made after I graduated from school in an attempt to escape the life I hated.  A broken nose from a fist fight, an unplanned pregnancy, and a long journey later, I am finally in a place where I can start feeling at peace.  I have a job that I’m happy with, a great kid, and the best family ever.  And I can finally let go, relax, and spend time doing things for myself as opposed to being consumed by my academic and career goals.  Life really is too short to not spend time living.”


tanya

Rev. Tanya Boucicaut | PhD Student at George Mason University | Adjunct Instructor and Research Affiliate, Virginia Union University | Founder and CEO, Perfect Love Community Theatre

“Dear Sister of Any Age:

First of all, you need to know that you matter.

The most meaningful advice I could ever give you in school is to celebrate small victories, advocate for yourself, and embrace the struggles. I share this analogy with my students all the time; one that I’ve heard many times, school is a marathon not a dash.

Celebrate your first test, your first paper of the semester. You deserve it! School is not easy or convenient for most of us, but that doesn’t mean isn’t worth it. School, at its best, in my opinion, is to help grow into our best selves. As you we celebrate, we also recognize that we are celebrating moments of growth. So please, even if it is just, having a meal (I’m foodie) or posting a status on social media, do it! Celebrate!”


anise

Anise Burkholder | University of Richmond Graduate | Active Duty Service Member, United States Navy

“The best advice I could give a young woman struggling in school is to keep your eye on the prize and realize this struggle is only preparing you for your purpose! It might seem hard right now but there’s something this stage in your life is teaching you. Don’t give up because you can do anything you put your mind to. Don’t compare your walk to someone else’s. Just focus on yourself, your future and your dreams.”


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Rose Ann E. Gutierrez, M.A. Candidate, Seattle University | Research Associate, Center for Community Engagement | Project Manager for Community College and STEM Research | Resident Director, Cornish College of the Arts | Co-Editor-in-Chief of MAGIS: A Student Development Journal 

“Know who you are inside and out because when you have that sense of integrity and are honest with yourself, you can’t be false to anybody else. When school becomes challenging, remind yourself of your motivations whether those be intrinsic and/or extrinsic. I keep photos of my parents on my desk to remind me of why–why I continue to persist and remain resilient in the face of adversities. I am the first one in my family to receive a bachelor’s degree and on the pathway of attaining a master’s. I witnessed my parent’s arduous efforts, as they worked multiple jobs only receiving three to four hours of sleep for years to provide for my needs and wants. I have the educational privilege to not only give back to my parents, but also give forward to my community and others. We, women, need to leverage our education as a tool and see ourselves as social agents to truly impact society. Moreover, find strong mentors who are women, who share the same identities as you. My mentors have been pillars of support, and I wouldn’t be where I am today if I wasn’t guided and advised by some of the strongest and best.”

 


tiara

Just Another College Student Working Hard to Become Who I’ve Dreamed of 

 

“Hi Beautiful! Yes you! You know what your dreams are. You know what goals you’ve set. Now accomplish them. Pray to whoever you believe in, keep the faith, and WORK. Work hard to be that successful woman you’ve dreamed of becoming. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it. Don’t give up. You got this. “

 

 

 

 


 

 

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Kiara Lee, M.Ed | Founder, #SCHOOLGIRLHUSTLE | Editor, theblackertheberry.org |PhD Student, Virginia Commonwealth University 

“I think the most useful pearl of wisdom I could offer girls and women in the midst of their #SCHOOLGIRLHUSTLE is to never be afraid to think outside of the box. There is no one way to get from point A to point B, to earn a degree or even to achieve happiness and satisfaction in your life. If plan A doesn’t work, don’t be embarrassed or ashamed of the less popular plan B, or C, or D or E. It’s your path and your path only. Own it, with all of its quirks, uniqueness, spins, turns and detours. At the end of it all, you WILL arrive at your destination, with gratitude and with grace.

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Becoming U at the University

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BY AYONNA

Going to college will be one of your most life changing experiences. Not only is it frightening to be far from home, surrounded by so many different people, but what’s even worse is you probably haven’t even figured out who you are yet. That’s perfectly fine. Use that as fuel to figure out. Following the crowd and mimicking everyone else is so much less fulfilling than building yourself up to be the individual you were born to be. You have so much to offer and your potential is endless. Your own beauty, creativity, and intelligence is much more powerful and significant than a duplicate of someone else’s could ever be.

How do you make this happen you ask? How do you find that amazing, fierce woman hiding deep down inside of you? That’s easy. You relentlessly search for her. This involves a little soul searching and a lot of just living your life. Of course learning and making good grades are both vital to be successful in school. However, don’t be that girl who spent her entire college career in the library studying. Get out there, meet new people, get involved on campus, and find your passion. Not only because it will help you develop your own personal character, but also because a well-rounded woman will be much more prepared for life after college than the girl who studied her life away. Don’t get me wrong, do study your butt off; but reward yourself for your hard work and also put work into other parts of your life. As you will soon find out, college is just a big balancing act. You’ll have to learn how to balance your school work, social life, and your extracurricular duties. At times it will be stressful, but as long as you’re doing things that you’re truly passionate about, you’ll find the time. But if you’re doing entirely too much for illegitimate reasons, let a few things go.

As I reflect on the past two and a half years I’ve spent at Hampton University, there are a lot of things I’m glad that I did but there are many other things I wish I had tried to do. But I went outside of my comfort zone many, many times and it helped me discover things about myself that I never would have. Help yourself become the most awesome version of yourself possible by getting out there and leaving your mark. You’ll never know what that could lead to unless you take the leap.

(photo: campuslately.com)


AyonnaAyonna Thornton is a first year professional Doctor of Pharmacy candidate at the Hampton University School of Pharmacy. She is originally from Oxford, North Carolina where she founded the mentoring program Cheering Girls On in 2015. Her program caters primarily to the cheerleaders at her alma mater high school but she plans to majorly expand in 2016. Ayonna also enjoys volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club in Hampton, VA. She loves playing with the young girls and helping them with their resident step team. She spends any other free time she has cooking, painting, reading, and writing for her blog, Solstice. She is also involved with several organizations on campus at her Home by the Sea such as the NAACP and her class’s executive counsel. She hopes that her involvement in all of her projects reflects her care for the black youth in the community and her desire to reach and teach them.

Never Give Up

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BY STEPHANIE

I was almost brought to tears when I heard a story about a young lady that I work with. She was deprived of an opportunity to continue her education after her freshman year of college. A man, who stalked and violated her physically, made her afraid to go back to school. The summer after her first year, she told her mother that she was too afraid to go back to campus. So, she decided to quit school, with the intention of going back. A few years later, because of the fear that he instilled in her, she has yet to go back to school. I could not believe it when she told this to me.

Putting myself in her position, I can’t help but think about how differently my life would have turned out if I had an experience like that. I never felt unsafe walking around campus during my undergraduate years at the University of Richmond. It was an incredible experience for me, and I don’t know what I would have done if I was in her shoes. It makes me so angry to know that there are people that will harm someone physically and emotionally, especially without any legitimate reason.

I have a younger sister who will be going to college next year, and it saddens me to feel a need to talk to her about how to prevent these circumstances. I understand the tears of excitement and anxiety that parents feel when they send their kids to college (especially their little girls who are becoming young women). When I think about all of the horrible things happening around the world, I cannot help but feel nervous at the thought of going back to school myself, but I will not let it stop me. I encourage any and everyone to not have their lives hindered and deprived out of fear. We must, unfortunately, take safety precautions as much as possible, but we must not let someone scare us into having our lives deprived of opportunities to live our lives to the fullest.

In the words of Whitney Houston, in her song, Never Give Up, “Hold your head to the sky, look them right in the eyes, Tell ’em you will never quit until the day you get it right….Even though some days you’ll have to cry, Shake it off and know that everything will be alright as long as you never ever give up.”


StephStephanie Granderson is a community advocate driven by her passion for education. Though she was raised in Richmond, Virginia, much of her cultural background comes from Trinidad and Tobago, where most of her family was born. As a first generation citizen and college graduate, she aspires to motivate her students to be successful just as others have done for her. While attending the University of Richmond, she was able to connect what she was learning in her classes about social inequalities with her experience volunteering in various schools and non-profits. Part of her experience was at Higher Achievement, where she had the opportunity to teach math and mentor students in under-resourced communities.  After graduation, she continued to serve Richmond through VCU’s AmeriCorps program where she tutored first and second graders to establish a stronger foundation in reading. She continues to tutor students in math, from kindergarten all the way up to calculus,
part-time after working at a middle school with students who have special needs in the City of Richmond. Stephanie loves to knit, dance, eat sushi, and practice speaking Spanish whenever she has the opportunity.

When the Hustle Gets Real

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BY KIARA

Its 2 Am and my mind is doing that thing again

And I wonder and I ponder and I like to pretend

And think about life without school and how easy it looks

The trips, the parties, the laid back lives and the housewives I see all over Facebook

The jobs I could have, the money I could make, the different things I could do, the different roads I could take

But the clock tells me I need to stop and keep it movin’ cuz this paper is due at 8

I’m twenty five – two plus five is 7

Now I’m delirious and thinkin’ “damn, it wasn’t this hard in undegrad back in 2011”

Eleven. 11 years ago, I wanted to be a doctor — medical

But now I’m up in this PhD program, it’s technical

When I was little, grandma used to always say books were my friends

And my friends will give me the ends I see on Facebook

and I won’t have to pretend…

(photo: Coyote Students News)

meblacklipstickKIARA LEE is the founder of #SCHOOLGIRLHUSTLE. She’s from Richmond, Virginia and she’s passionate about education and social justice. Two of her research interests are colorism and parental incarceration. In fact, she’s been featured on CNN’s Black in America for her work with children and colorism. She’s a writer before anything else, with a blog (theBlackertheBerry.org) and 2 children’s books surrounding social issues. She often says “education can be the best thing and the worst thing at the same time,” referring to the many layers of education that can make or break a student — particularly young girls. She has a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Richmond and a master’s degree in education from the University of Virginia. She’s currently working on her PhD in education at Virginia Commonwealth University — she’s an aspiring college professor. In her free time, she likes to dabble in spoken word, write and vent about the wrongs of the world on her blog, theblackertheberry.org, shop in thrift stores, eat delicious foods, travel to new places and spend time with family and friends.